For years, the running joke with regard to automation was that robots would take over the world. And as you consider adding chat to your website, you might be thinking: do I go “bot” or do I use a live chat operator? Or would a blend of the two be the best for my website visitors?

So, how do you decipher the different types of chat and make the optimal decision for your prospects and your business?

It’s hard to ignore the rise of chat bots in the customer service environment. Though the technology is still in its infancy, Gartner predicts chat bots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by 2020. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is improving and will be instrumental in making them dynamically responsive to conversations. The capability for real-time translation makes these chats more accommodating of the individual customer’s needs.

According to Econsultancy, 79% of consumers prefer the chat functions of a bot because they don’t have to wait on hold (they receive immediate answers). Of those organizations using chat bots, 23% claim their bots deliver a positive customer experience. Acquire’s recent white paper, The Rise of Chat Bots in Customer Service & Support, boasts that 82% of customer queries were resolved satisfactorily by a bot, with the number increasing to 88% when combined with live human interaction. And chat bots are less expensive – after all, there is minimal expense when it comes to having a robot responding automatically to customer inquiries.

Keep in mind, however, that customer service isn’t the same as customer conversion. A downside to chat bots is their rigidity. They are, in essence, an interactive contact form. Even with AI, chat bot responses are limited and spelling errors can result in incorrect responses. You might be ok using a chat bot to return a pair of shoes. Would you be as willing to go back and forth about a complex transaction or sensitive legal or medical issue? According to a recent Hubspot report, 26% of consumers said no

And here appears one issue with chat bot technology – a lack of human interaction. No human touch. The customer experience can, at times, feel cold and robotic, offering little or no personal connection or empathy. This may cause the visitor to feel “duped” into interacting with a robot instead of a human, especially if the chat is billed as “live chat.” 60% of consumers agree that “it would feel patronizing if a chat bot started a conversation by asking me how my day is going,” and a whopping 48% considered chat bots pretending to be human “creepy.”

Using live chat to engage with and procure the contact information of a consumer differs greatly from using live chat to resolve a customer service issue.  Live chat used for lead conversions may be the first interaction potential customers have with you. Carefully structured, well handled interaction is vital. Live chat operators – humans, not bots – engage your site visitors in an interactive experience by offering empathy and asking open-ended questions that make the visitor the focus of the conversation. Carefully trained live chat operators understand subtlety and interpret intent and nuances whereas a bot cannot. The visitor may not know precisely what they want or need, and can appreciate the ability of a live “real” person to help them navigate a difficult process. This differs from someone seeking the availability of a product or making a return.

By implementing live chat, you create an interactive and engaging online experience that gives visitors personal attention at their convenience. At a minimum, live chat services can generate 40% more contacts for you –which is a step in the right direction when growing your business and offering a more positive customer experience.

Ultimately, whether handled via live chat or a chat bot – or, even, a hybrid of the two – chat possesses the capability to handle high-touch interaction driven by the will of the consumer. In a crowded online marketplace, you need your company to be noticed and stay in front of prospective clients. Live chat differentiates you from competitors – allowing you to give potential clients immediate personal attention 24/7, 365 days a year. Without this instant communication, visitors may leave your site and seek help elsewhere.

1 https://www.mindshareworld.com/sites/default/files/MINDSHARE_HUDDLE_HUMANITY_MACHINE_2016_0.pdf